February 08, 2011

Aviation Subcommittee Holds Hearing on FAA Reauthorization

Washington, D.C. – The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation today received testimony from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt on the reauthorization of the FAA.

Below is the opening statement of U.S. Representative Jerry F. Costello (D-IL), Democratic Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Aviation, as prepared for delivery:

FEBRUARY 8, 2011


I want to first congratulate Mr. Petri on his selection as the Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee.   I want to thank Chairman Petri for calling today’s hearing on the “Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization: FAA Administrator.”

Mr. Chairman, in the 110th and 111th Congresses, the Aviation Subcommittee held 52 hearings, spearheaded 39 bills and resolutions through the House; 25 of which were enacted.  This Subcommittee made a valuable contribution to our nation’s economic recovery with enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which included $1.3 billion for aviation infrastructure.

I commend Administrator Babbitt and his agency for getting the money out quickly and investing in valuable, job-producing infrastructure projects.  Work has already been completed on 694 projects, and is underway on 77 more, representing 100 percent of the total aviation Recovery Act funds.

Mr. Chairman, in response to the February 2009 Colgan Flight 3407 crash, we worked together to enact sweeping airline safety and pilot training reforms – the strongest piece of airline safety legislation in decades.  We have some members of the Colgan Flight 3407 Families with us today, and I want to thank them again for their steadfast support in getting our new safety law enacted.  Last month, I asked the Department of Transportation Inspector’s General’s office to undertake a comprehensive review of the FAA’s progress implementing the provisions of our new safety law, as well as the industry’s responses to the FAA’s Call to Action on voluntary safety programs.  This Subcommittee must continue to provide vigorous oversight on safety issues.

Last year, we also worked diligently with the other body and got very close to delivering a strong, balanced, bipartisan FAA reauthorization bill.    Based on the work we did last Congress, I believe we can complete a bipartisan bill very quickly, and I intend to work with you to produce a bill as soon as possible.   However, we must ensure that the bill we produce continues moving the FAA, the aviation community and the nation forward - and does not set us back.

Commercial and general aviation together contribute more than $1.3 trillion in output to the nation’s economy.  Historically, Members of this Subcommittee have fought to increase and guarantee infrastructure funding in each successive reauthorization bill.  This Subcommittee has recognized that investing in our infrastructure will improve the economy, create jobs and provide for the safe and efficient flow of commerce.

Some have suggested that for fiscal reasons, we should go backwards now, downsize the FAA, and even authorize lower capital funding levels for the FAA than what Congress provided in the last FAA reauthorization bill over seven years ago.  I am convinced that doing so would present major concerns for aviation safety.  I agree that we need to reduce federal spending but we cannot jeopardize the safety of the flying public in the process.

Recent budgetary analysis provided by the FAA indicates that if Congress reduces FAA’s funding to 2008 levels, key NextGen programs will be delayed or cancelled.

Moreover, funding cuts will stall the agency’s facility consolidation efforts, efforts that would otherwise save billions of dollars and reduce the deficit in the long term.  I am also concerned that funding cuts could adversely impact safety, causing the FAA’s Aviation Safety office to furlough hundreds of safety personnel.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.   I look forward to hearing from Administrator Babbitt on these issues.